We at Rend Collective have a shocking confession. We are not actually an indie-folk band: we are a celebration band. Don’t be fooled by our vintage-inspired, slightly homeless, vaguely nautical attire, our tendency to dabble with rusty, antique instruments, or our abundant and seldom-tamed facial hair. Do not be led astray by the fact that we do, indeed, play our fair share of folk music. (It is, after all, in our Celtic blood).
You see, we would far rather have our worship defined by joy, fun, freedom and laughter than any genre title or pop-culture label. Rend Collective is a celebration band, practicing the spiritual discipline of joy and discovering The Art of Celebration. It’s just a happy coincidence that celebration and folk music make a great pairing.
Rend Collective currently find ourselves in a season during which we have a lot to celebrate. We have welcomed a brand new (and impossibly cute!) member into the Rend family by the name of Arthur Guinness Gilkeson, and Chris has just returned from honeymoon with the beautiful Gabriella. It makes sense that our latest project focuses on joy.
The Art of Celebration is a fun-loving concept album which, to echo the words of Belfast’s own C.S Lewis, explores the “serious business” of joy.
We made a recent theological breakthrough as a band and it has changed everything about our approach: seriousness is not a fruit of the spirit …but joy is. There is an irrepressible laughter in the heart of God and this record is an attempt to reflect this as a worshipping community. We think joy is an underemphasized aspect of God’s character.
He is the One who invented and even commanded holidays and feasting; who celebrated the first wedding with Adam and Eve; who sings over us and rejoices over us. Jesus’ first miracle was to provide wine to keep a party alive. In His telling of the parable of the Prodigal Son, He uses an extravagant party as a picture of grace. Hebrews even tells us that Jesus suffered the cross “for the joy set before Him.” The culmination of all history is described in terms of celebration – the marriage of Christ and His church.
He is the ultimate artist of celebration. We come with a gospel worth celebrating, before a celebrating King: we think our response as worshippers should be obvious.
The journey of writing this record and trying to live out its ethos has made us realize that joy isn’t always easy. We have been profoundly blessed this year in so many ways – and we focus on that intentionally – but we have also struggled through the dark spaces of loneliness, insecurity, doubt and failure. Paradoxically, this joy project was crafted in the refining fire of hurting and brokenness.
Happiness is not the same thing as joy. Happiness is an emotion; a superficial response to pleasant circumstances. But Joy is deeper, it’s a spiritual discipline. It is not our default mode of operation but rather it is a fruit that must be cultivated. This is why God actually had to build commands requiring us to celebrate into the Law – our sinful souls are more inclined towards negativity, bitterness and cynicism. We must wrestle for our blessing, as Jacob wrestled, and fight for joy.
It’s no accident that the opening line of the whole record (from the appropriately titled song, “Joy”) is “We’re choosing celebration.” Celebration, the practice of joy, is a choice. That doesn’t mean it’s always an easy choice to make. We know that we inevitably must navigate storms of sorrow and shadows, disappointment and doubt in this life.
Our lead single from the album, “My Lighthouse,” is about celebrating God’s brightness in the midst of “troubled seas.” Though we are thrown and tossed by the difficulties of this life, we can still celebrate our Father’s faithfulness and constancy within the chaos. We can choose celebration.
How do we remind ourselves as a wounded church family that we still have a reason to sing? How do we move from the edges and fringes into the center of the party? How do we, the life-scarred and hardened, rejoice again?
Worship isn’t just a sparkly pop soundtrack for the carefree – it’s a desperate and costly offering of disciplined joy. We are a church full of real people and this is real life. We are not shiny, happy people, immune to troubles and trials. But we are choosing celebration.
It is impossible to imagine pure joy and celebration without music. It is the sonic companion to life’s most euphoric moments. We think the biggest clue as to what The Art of Celebration sounds like is in the title. We tried to make it sound like fun. It’s what the Psalmist calls, “a joyful noise.”
Our process was to just choose the instruments that seemed like fun to us and let the genre definition work itself out. We use a bewildering array of the weird, wonderful, whimsical music toys that we’re still not too old to love: our native Irish folk instruments, some good old-fashioned rock’ n’ roll guitars, and even some synth-pop inspired elements. (And it goes without saying that Gareth once again wields that awesome, homemade weapon of mass celebration we know only as “the Jingling Johnny.”)
We haven’t abandoned folk music, of course. It’s a huge part of who we are (it would be like abandoning a limb!). But we haven’t stayed there either – where’s the fun in that?
We could have simply made “Campfire 2: Revenge of the Banjo” (which actually sounds kind of awesome!), but the ethos of Rend Collective has always been about pushing creative boundaries and trying something new and colorful.
So what can you expect from our latest project? Come expecting all the raucous, foot-stomping energy and freedom you’ve heard from us before but re-imagined and evolved. Come expecting playful, worshipful sounds that raise a smile. This is not the science of modern worship or the formula of industry: this is The Art of Celebration.